What is the CBCL?
The CBCL is used to assess a wide variety of behaviors and emotions in children, including depression. It’s particularly useful when it is unclear what might be causing a child’s problem behaviors or symptoms.

The more common problematic behaviors in children have been used to create a questionnaire that describes and detects those behaviors. These behaviors are meant to be easily identifiable by parents, caregivers, teachers, and others.

The questions are grouped into eight categories, or subscales, which focus on different aspects of behavior:

  • Social withdrawal (e.g., not wanting to play with friends anymore)
  • Somatic complaints (e.g., unexplained stomachaches)
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Social problems
  • Thought problems
  • Attention problems
  • Delinquent behavior
  • Aggressive behavior

Who uses CBCL?
The CBCL is used by a qualified mental health professional to assess the behaviors and symptoms of the child.

There are two additional related versions of CBCL for the child and their teacher to complete: the Youth Self-Report Form (YSF) and the Teacher Report Form (TRF). The TRF is especially useful when the concern is stemming from classroom behavior.

Only one form of the survey is required for scoring, but completion of all three versions allows for different perspectives and cross-referencing.

How is an assessment usually run?

The CBCL is a survey completed independently. If there are concerns about reading level or comprehension, the survey can be administered orally by an interviewer.

For each question, the survey-taker must select the answer that best describes the frequency of the behavior. Additionally, there are several items in which an explanation of the behavior is required.

A trained professional needs to interpret the results. The raw score on its own is essentially meaningless. The mental health counselor who interprets the results should review and discuss findings.

1. An initial interview with a psychologist: gathering comprehensive background information through interviews with the person and in the case of a child this may be interviews and information from parents and schoolteachers as well.

2. Test administration: by a registered and trained psychologist.

3. Results & feedback: to explain findings, provide recommendations and opportunities to discuss any questions you may have with the psychologist. You will also receive a formal report with this information.

If your child is depressed, or you are concerned about any behaviors or feelings, speak to your child’s pediatrician or another healthcare provider. The health professional can accurately diagnose your child’s symptoms and suggest appropriate treatment.